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Studying Photography



AS iMAGES NO LoNGeR sErVE tO Re p ReSENT A sLiCE oF liVEd R EAlit Y, Or TruTH

As images no longer serve to represent a slice of lived reality, or truth, students of visual culture need more guidance than ever when attempting to make sense of our increasingly visual and visually manipulated world.1

1 WRIGHT Peter, Seeing is believing. Or is it?: visual literacy in art & design education, in Art Libraries Journal, 41 (1), pp. 32-39, Cambridge University Press for Art Libraries Society (ARLIS), 2016


Pedagogy is living a time of big changes due to the technology development and the free flow of people that allows moving from a country to another very easily. This brings also new challenges for school institutions that have to study new ways to improve their programs, attracting students, manage diversity and insert the digital experience in the learning process. While classical institutions are still debating the fundamental difference between the “passive” knowledge that is developed through critical analysis and the “active” knowledge that derives from production, facing the problem starting e-learning programs, expanding their campus and offering a broaden choice of courses, art schools still represent the most innovative, yet conservative educational system. That is very interesting as, especially in photography practice, we are constantly facing the technological development and the fast evolution of the media, but at the same time, we are still closely linked to a practice that often lives strictly connected to determined rules and ethics. In this context, teaching photography becomes even more challenging: as we live in a world that is changing – or better, which has changed already – we need to change as well. There is for sure a lack of alignment between the digital reality of young people’s lives and the institutions they come in contact with, which generates a disconnection between people who make decisions and those who are experiencing them. How are photography schools responding to these developments? Let me leave you with this suggestion and invite you to consider thinking about it, because, starting from the editorial by Paola Paleari and going on with the selection of contributions we decided to present to deal with the topic, you will be able to embrace the critical debate with some new tools. * To educate about photography, to teach how to compose a picture, to guide through its reading. And, on the other side, to be trained as a photographer: is it all well and good? More precisely: is it really necessary? Put in this way, it sounds like a rhetoric question, but considering the contradictions attached to this discipline, maybe it is not such a pleonastic query. If on one hand photography is passing through a serious professional crisis, on the other it has never experienced such glorious times - in terms of cultural relevance and impact on society - as the current ones. We are witnessing a procedural paradox: technologies, networks and devices are often blamed of


being the “killers” of the photographer’s job, but it is undeniable that their horizontal diffusion is the basis of a more widespread interest in the image. According to the law of large numbers, if for every hundred teenagers selfieing themselves with their smart phones, something more than sharing these snapshots on the networks grows out of it for even only one of them, here comes a blossoming audience attentive to photography. Among the consequences of this process, a growing number of photography courses, schools, workshops and internships proliferates everywhere to meet the needs of this “new wave” of photographers. Clubs, associations, local and private institutions offer a wide range of opportunities to get closer to the language of photography, both on the technical and theoretical levels. All these experiences seem to confirm it is eventually possible to have access to educational tools that can help photography lovers to unravel the visual noise that surrounds our lives. At this point I need to make a clarification, to avoid being misunderstood. What I have talked about so far concerns a broader view of the phenomenon, which includes the world of amateurs with its social and cultural implications. Although this is a fundamental part of the discourse, the problems we face in this issue of Yet magazine are tied to a specific subgroup, the one of professional photographers and lens-based artists. The decision of studying photography in order to make ends meet uniquely through it or exposing in museums and galleries requires students to possess a high level of awareness – as well as, of course, already advanced technical abilities – and the school to answer increasingly specific and refined needs. But these two apparently independent clusters actually share some of the same dilemmas: how to choose the right school, for example, in the often nebulous and intricate labyrinth of photography education programs? No matter at which level the pupil is positioned: studying is anyway a matter of money, time, efforts and expectations. It is just a bigger deal when it gets to the point of requiring a full time commitment along many months and several thousands of local currency, instead of some evenings per week and the money for better camera equipment. Said that, what does learning (and teaching) photography at a professional level mean, today? This is the main question we started from. What do future professional photographers look for when they decide to attend an undergraduate, Bachelor or Master course? What do they want to be taught, that they cannot learn by themselves? On the other side, what kind of strategies are institutions using in order to deal


with the more and more demanding educational standards, pedagogical needs and the world outside? We decided to let the schools themselves answer these questions. After a screening of schools scattered all over the world, we gave carte blanche to 11 institutions, asking them to accept the challenge of presenting themselves through the language and approach that distinguish each of them. The selection of schools - located in Europe, Asia and Russia - was carried out on a formative diversification rather than on a geographical criterion, in an effort to include as many different variations of the topic as possible. One important point I would like to underline is that we did not limit our choice to the “proper” photography schools, but we included universities and art academies with dedicated department to lens-based media, so to stress that this discipline is no longer perceived and handed down as detached from the larger visual and artistic realm. Eventually, the schools have responded in very diverse ways, some focusing on their vision and philosophy, some on the teachers’ perspective, some on the students’ experience. What we present today is a rich, diverse, manifold issue, where different written and visual languages pass each other the baton and where the topic is subdivided into sundry explorations of the mechanisms of vision, perception, communication, composition and narration. It is not an easy issue, but it is surely a useful one. The challenge we launched was accepted and we are now glad to offer the readers a product that could be used as an orientation tool within the modern Babel Tower of photography education.

Introduction by Salvatore Vitale, Editor in Chief Editorial by Paola Paleari, Deputy Editor



14 — 29


Royal Academy of Art The Hague

34 — 47


Zurich University of the Arts


Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn

51 — 63

122 — 131


By Darren Campion Foto Departament St. Petersburg


École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne Education and storytelling IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEC SOTH

68 — 83

98— 115


156 — 169


Centre d’Enseignement Professionnel de Vevey LEARNING FROM DIGITAL

A conversation about Digital photography, learning and schools With Olivier Cablat and Salvatore Vitale

03 — 05

30 — 33


University of Brighton FATA MORGANA

The Danish School of Art Photography MAU

Musashino Art University

84 — 91

92 — 97

48 — 50 OPAVA

The Institute 116 — 121 of Creative Photography Silenian University Opava BLANK PAPER

School of Photography, Madrid


148 — 155


ABK Royal Academy of Art The Hague

Text by Donald Weber, teacher at the KABK Royal Academy of Arts in Hague, Netherlands

I’m a new member of the faculty at the KABK, starting in the first semester of 2015. So, for me, the KABK has always had a hazy fog veiled around it, a mystical presence in the field of photography education. They must be doing something right as many of their graduates have gone onto significant photography careers and have proven themselves in the photography world. So, I always thought, “what is it? What is happening there?” I was confused, however, because I have been leery of engaging with photographic education that seems to create clones or copies of the chosen school. I much prefer to see students find their own voices and their own methods to say something relevant and with meaning to the larger world. I have decided to interview three students and their experiences of the KABK, allowing me to gain further insight into the methodology of the school, but also to explore and find out where our students are at. What makes the KABK a success? What are it’s failures? What works, what doesn’t, what are a new generation of students examining photographically? In return, the three students have presented me with questions, a mutual interrogation of each other. As a teacher, I believe in mutuality, that we’re in this together and the only way to move forward in education and in creation is to have a mutual understanding and trust of each other. I have chosen three students who represent both the Fiction and Documentary streams of the KABK, a particular quirk of the academy. Nathan Doorduin is a second year Documentary student, somebody who is constantly questioning the perceived ideologies of what it means to be a documentarian, and relatively young in his career. Kimmo Virtanen is currently in his final year of the KABK as a Fiction student. Lastly, Esther Hovers is a recent graduate who has met much success since graduating. Here, you’ll get a full balance of the KABK from the students’ perspective. What it means to study there, to have gone through the entire process and to just be in the beginning stages of an educational career.


Donald Weber

Do you all look to the future? What do you see, and what do you anticipate?

When I do well at the academy I tend to dream about a future in which I can make a living from everything related to photography. However, focussing too much on the future tends to make me forget that my necessity to create doesn’t derive from the dream to have a beautiful career. As for now I want to focus on who I am as a creator. Kimmo Virtanen I’m a somewhat introvert personality, and require space (both mental and physical) around me to be able to focus. I’m from Finland, and nature plays an important role in enabling that. However, living outside my own culture keeps my mind open and unprejudiced. For this reason I’ve lately dreamed of moving to Iceland and starting something small, but meaningful, there. Esther Hovers You probably mean the future of photography. I guess it would be hip to give an answer about interdisciplinary work and collaboration. But to be honest, I’m much more concerned with thinking about the future in general. What society do we want to live in? Then maybe I can think about questions for our future with the use of photography.

interesting questions with your work then those you started out with.

Nathan Doorduin

Donald Weber

Why formal study? If you have an eye and a brain and a camera you can make photographs. Is there really a need today to be within an educational institution?

Yes. Because there are a lot of steps involved to get from having a pen, to being able to write a full sentence, to writing a novel, an essay or a poem. If you see KABK as a school of language, grammar is only a small part of it. To understand how to use the language in a more controlled way you have to look into the past, know all of its uses, and understand how it is perceived by others. The other thing that makes studying here very beneficial is that you’re introduced to a network of photographers. Because in the end it doesn’t matter if you make great work, if no one knows you you’re not going to get anywhere. Kimmo Virtanen Maybe it’s not so much different from all the other formal studies out there. I have a scalpel I use for bookbinding, but nobody would ever let me operate on them – not that I’d like to! :) When you don’t know where to start, you sort of place trust on the knowledge and help of others who preceded you in this field. The same way I don’t know anything about brain surgery, I knew almost nothing about photography – I was merely very interested in it. And more importantly, I wasn’t good at it. I still can’t do much else with sharp objects other than clip my nails, but I can definitely do more within photography than the first time I laid my hands on a camera. Esther Hovers For me it was important. I think if you’re obsessed with creating something it helps to go to a place that encourages this obsession you have. And then hopefully the academy helps everyone to ask more Nathan Doorduin

Donald Weber

The internet and the oncoming digital transformation of our society “change our sense of what it means to make.” You could say that the internet and the ease of digital technology elevates the banal, meaning Tumblr pages of cats, YouTube videos of people living rooms, Vine pranks, etc., all suddenly take on a larger meaning. Or you could say that it enriches content, raises the bar outside of Wiki, creates a “hyper Olympics” where the apex of human possibility id higher than in history. Or neither! How do you, as a student, fit within this new world where everyone is a maker, or creator, of images?

I practically grew up on the internet and was one of those kids that did some illustrator tutorials and designed logo’s for companies for a low fare. Of course the quality of these designs were questionable and I didn’t have any actual knowledge on design so I was in no way a graphic designer, but I do think that if a thirteen year old threatens to steal your clients, you should think of new ways to practice your profession. I think the (Why do you call it oncoming? It’s been going on since before I was born?) digital transformation of our society is not only changing our sense of what it means to make, but it also changes what it means to be alive, thus brings new stories into the world that have to be told. If we don’t manage to adapt to these changes, the importance of photography is going to diminish. However, most of these stories are not inherently visual, so photographers have to find a way to make them visual. At the moment you can see a lot of artists questioning what constitutes photography. This broadening of our understanding of the medium is going to help us to take on the challenges the future will bring. Kimmo Virtanen In terms of photography, I’ve seen it as a medium doing a full circle: starting from its chemical, analog dawn, its struggle to become recognized as art, going through digitalization and endless malleability and all the way back again to the appreciation of “pure” chemical photography without a computer software in between. Perhaps as a consequence, professional photographers are turning into “meta-photographers”, anthropologists of found footage and visual culture (the present and the past), where they position themselves as curators of photographs taken by others, and in such a way bending the definition of their own profession. It is true that we’re living in a very visually saturated culture where setting yourself apart from others and becoming noticed is difficult. Nevertheless, I believe that the driving force for photography – for example – to go through such changes that it has, has always been curiosity to see things difNathan Doorduin



HdK Zurich University of the Arts


Al École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne


KA Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn

Borrowed Words: The Language of Photographic Education BY DARREN CAMPION

The idea that photography itself is an inherently accessible, indeed even democratic language is not exactly creditable. While it is a much touted fact that everyone now makes more pictures than ever before, the ways in which we encounter the medium are still undoubtedly regulated by a diverse range of forces. The same can be said for how we collectively think and talk about photography, the way that words are used to anchor and police images – or photographic practices. No photograph exists without some kind of discourse around it, a grounding in language, even if this varies with the nature of the picture and the context in which it exists. The photograph is not a blank space excised from the world of language that surrounds it, but is at least a partial continuation of a larger discourse. This applies to the production of images, actually making photographs, as much as it does to their reception. Without giving much credence to the notion that photography constitutes a language, then, one that can speak – or think – for itself, there is something to be said for looking at the kind of language we surround photography with, the specific ways in which the medium is discussed. The language particular to photography as opposed


to a language of photography, actually appears as one of the key forces that serve to regulate our understanding of it, even if it is not always easy to grasp as such. It is also true, however, that photography is by no means a unified set of practices, so that each different use of the medium might well have its own vernacular, a language particular to the context of how photography is being used in that instance. Again, this is not to suggest that any given use of photography is in itself a kind of language, but points to the necessity of understanding that the different uses of photography occasion an equally varied discursive context in which to function. Each use has its own set of protocols for reading (or making) a picture and its own language for doing so. After all, we don’t speak in the same way about an advertising photograph or a picture on Instagram, for example, as we do about one found in the pristine white space of a gallery or museum. In the case of social media, the associated language is mostly casual and generally unnoticed in its familiarity. But many of the photographic discourses we make use of are a good deal more formalized and this is reflected in the sort of language that makes them up – as well as, of course, by the ideas about photography that underlie this language. The use of photography as a self-conscious art practice is one of the most significant examples of this, precisely because it requires photographers to reflect on the nature of their work and the context in which it exists to an extent that photographers in other areas are not often obliged to pursue. What this hinges on is the question of how photographers learn to understand and talk about their work. It is an issue, in fact, fundamentally connected to education. This is where we have formed what might be called the appreciative vocabulary of the medium, at least in terms of the field that is usually – though vaguely – called ‘fine art’ photography. The discussion of photography in the context of third-level education makes use of terms that draw on sometimes very disparate areas within the humanities, which are generally taken to lend it, if nothing else, an impression of rigour. It is inevitable that students then begin to make work that can be discussed in those terms rather than discovering (and learning to question) their own interests, precisely because the educational context in which they find themselves specifically privileges this kind of discourse. As a result, photographers learn that the best or most acceptable way to speak about their work is in such ‘academic’ terms. Similarly, the growth of photography in the art market tends to favour work that can be positioned in a way that is comparable to those that define broader art practices; in short, work that can be treated in a manner that has already been established by contemporary art theory. This is a matter of a shared discourse that also serves, perhaps incidentally and perhaps not, as a reliable form of marketing.



OTO AR TA mENt Foto Departament St. Petersburg


Pv Centre d’Enseignement Professionnel de Vevey


Au Musashino Art Unversity




University of Brighton


A conversation about Digital photography, learning and schools

Learning, educational systems, art schools, photography practices. We live in the post-photography, post-modernism, post-everything, but we still question ourselves about the digital and its value. In photography education, it is possible to perceive a sort of reticence in fully embracing the possibilities driven by the digital experience. Where does it comes from, and what possible responses can be given to the multiple questions coming to light? I started an interesting discussion with Olivier Cablat, first off because we share some common thoughts on the matter, but mainly because he is an expert with years of experience in teaching and in digital practices. Our goal wasn't to find solutions to determined problems, but rather to find the right questions to ask several people involved in education.


Hi Salvatore, We are trying to organise with Sebastian Hau a series of talks around the idea of digital-meeting-teaching institutions, with the hypothesis that technology is moving faster than institutions. The feedback we get most of the time is that the theoretical approach around digital photography is a territory without any models, and stays most of the time on the margin of mainstreams. We would like to touch on some initiatives, experiments of teaching that try to de-compartmentalise techniques and theories. We are not sure of what we will find, but we are interested to share experiences with different people from different countries. It could take the form of 'post digital' practices presentation (post digital in the sense of digital can be thought as a Olivier Cablat

tradition now), some pedagogical experiment or some reflections shared around this idea. Hi Olivier, Your reading on teaching is particular, and can heighten the debate for sure. One thing I would like to do is to give a follow up to the spoken content of Arles’ Cosmos Arles Books conferences, by publishing the conversations on the next issue of the magazine. I really like the idea of this series of conversations finding concrete form in a publication. Salvatore Vitale

In my point of view, your proposition is perfectly fitting with the initial intention of the argument. “Learning from digital” is to understand widely both the mean to teach digital and the lessons we can receive from digital in any circumstances. More precisely, I feel better to be closer as possible to photography (in a large sense) and its theoretical incidences, including the question of artefacts, tools, pedagogical approaches, temporality, productivity, fragmentation or trans-materiality. I’m teaching digital photography in a theoretical way since 2007, and I am always surprised about how we have to advance slowly, and be attentive to let entrance doors open when we face a mixed audience. Olivier Cablat

I perfectly agree with you in saying that it has to be as closer as possible to photography, I wouldn't risk to explore other fields in an endless possibility of choices and situations. I like these sort of keywords you are using; “artefacts, tools, pedagogical approaches, temporality, productivity, fragmentation or trans-materiality”, they absolutely represent the main Salvatore Vitale


“problematics” connected to the topic. I think it would be interesting to face them, maybe with some real case study. For a few days, I was thinking of the best mean to structure all the ideas and reflections about digital, and I though of the idea of creating a compilation of questions that could be the starting point of many discussions around the conferences and publications… Here are my first questions: 01 Is there a continuity in photography from analog to digital? 02 Why the study of digital is mainly approached by institutions as a technological learning ? 03 Why do we use the “digital” prefix to speak about a technology that covers completely the practice of photography? Why do we still talk about “new” and 04 “post” when we talk about a technology which has been assimilated by artists for over 15 years? Olivier Cablat

I like the idea of a list of questions, and I think yours are good and major starters. I like in particular this way of thinking about digital in a way which really goes into the meaning of it. My questions and tips for the list are so far: 01 Why do we still speak about “post” photography in relation to digital practices? 02 Thinking about the teaching experience: moral panic versus digital faith. How to actively bring the “digital 03 experience” into photography formal learning experience? (e-learning platforms etc.). Salvatore Vitale


Coming back to the context of school institutions, speaking about the place of digital in photography teaching could be considered as an extension of the previous question of photography teaching inside fine-arts schools. If we take a step back, it is almost to rethink the role of photography in the field of artistic practices. I remember a response from Lewis Baltz, in 2014, in which he quoted the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles: “Institutionally, a similar school should not exist. It is like imagining a school of sculpture everyone would laugh at it? Following the higher education means to meet people from other disciplines. It creates debate by showing views that, within a circle, would not immediately be obvious.”1 In this way, Lewis Baltz compares the needs of the institution, or institutions, to create compartments, rationalize and categorize disciplines to understand and familiarize them better, as opposed to artistic apprenOlivier Cablat

ticeship that has the need to be more open, connected and interdisciplinary. We can also imagine that he himself was the victim of a ghettoisation of his artistic practice; his work has been valued and recognized in the field of photography, and much less in the broader context of contemporary art. To better understand the role of art schools in France: Universities depend on the Ministry of Education, and are primarily involved in training teachers and researchers. Art schools depend on both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture to form, mostly, professionals. The great tradition of French art schools is a direct inheritance of the academies, such as the Académie Royale de peinture et sculpture (XVII century), where the greatest artists of the time use to teach and maintain the academic tradition through a hierarchy of genres (history, portraiture, landscape, …), and through the study of the masters. Contemporary art schools are divided into a multitude of subcategories related to subsidies (municipal schools, national, local, …), or to the more or less craft, or artistic discipline (fine arts, decorative arts, photography, ...). The current system of French art schools seems to be a closed and fragmented extension of a centuries old tradition. The appearance of disciplines or unusual junctures has generated the creation of new categories and segments that have done nothing more but amplify the phenomenon of segregation suggested by Lewis Baltz. In my opinion, it is on this precise point that digital represents a challenge for contemporary institution; it offers the opportunity to rethink the educational system as a whole, rather than being tempted to play yet another category of teaching. In Western countries we don't make a distinction anymore between art and photography. And so it should be when speaking about the place of photography teaching in art institutions. This mention to Lewis Baltz’s experience is very interesting to me since, not long ago, I had a similar experience connected to photography teaching in Eastern Europe and, in particular, Russia. During a lecture on new possibilities in photography teaching, a very intense debate on the notion itself of art photography connected to art academies happened. or me, that was so compelling to discover that there is still a strict distinction between the so-called art photography and documentary photography. Listening to the different points of view coming out from professionals involved in the discussion, I started to wonder about the meaning itself of photography education and, in particular, about what does photography education literally sells. This brings us into the complex sphere of education systems and institutions that differ from country to country and, for this reason, it is very important to see how it works in other places – this is one of the main goals of this issue of YET magazine. If you do an analysis on photography courses – both primary and secondary level – one can easily notice how all the schools and Salvatore Vitale




gANA Fata Morgana The Danish School of Art Photography


AVa The Institute of Creative Photography Silenian University Opava


aNK APER Blank Paper School of Photography, Madrid


GeTXOPHOTO Argazki Jaialdia Photography Festival

2016 1-30 Iraila September


Basque Country

Sortzaileak / Authors

Eulalia Abaitua Carlos Ayesta & Guillaume Bression Matthew Pillsbury Rachel Sussman Manabu Yamanaka Irina Werning Chino Otsuka Bohnchang Koo Amit Sha’al Babesleak / Sponsors

Amy Friend Mark Formanek Jérémie Nassif Michael Wesely Kris Sanford Daesung Lee Ken Kitano Ori Gersht Anna Katharina Scheidegger Luce Lebart Antolatzailea / Organizer

Laguntzailea / Collaborator Amy Friend, Dare alla Luce

YET-H.indd 1

08/08/16 10:34


Profile for YET Magazine

PREVIEW YET magazine #10 – Studying Photography  

With this issue we focus on what it means to study photography today, with the aim to open a critic debate on the growing phenomenon of phot...

PREVIEW YET magazine #10 – Studying Photography  

With this issue we focus on what it means to study photography today, with the aim to open a critic debate on the growing phenomenon of phot...